With the debacle that was the DeAndre Jordan signing, the Mavs are looking forward to a fresh start in 2015. They tried to recover by adding Zaza Pachulia and Deron Williams, but that simply was not enough to wipe away the pain and embarrassment of being left in the lurch. The only player capable of making fans forget about this offseason is Chandler Parsons.
Dallas wanted to bring in Jordan as the new face of the franchise moving forward as Dirk Nowitzki’s career is on its last legs. They need someone for whom Nowitzki to pass the torch and help the franchise stay relevant. While they have always tried to hit the big free agents, the Jordan drama ended the way most of their previous quests had before, with a swing and a miss. The only significant free agent addition in Cuban’s tenure was Monta Ellis in the summer of 2013. Well, and Chandler Parsons.
Dallas already relied heavily on Parsons being their cheerleader and hype man during the offseason. They had him, along with Mark Cuban, try to swoon Jordan. While unsuccessful, it shows how much trust and faith the Mavericks put into the former Florida Gator. They feel he is the best player to represent the direction in which the franchise is heading. Now it is time for him to fulfill the promises and be the focus of the Mavericks’ offense.
Throughout Parsons’ four-year career, he has proven to be a great shooter with the potential of being a big time scorer. He has just never gotten the opportunity. When Parsons was in Houston, he was always the second or third fiddle behind James Harden and Dwight Howard. Even after coming over to Dallas, Parsons was the third option with Nowitzki and Ellis taking significantly more shots than him per game.
That will all change in 2015-16. With Ellis and his 28 percent usage rate in Indiana, Parsons will get a chance to play with the ball in his hands more often. Nowitzki also acknowledged he needs to take a backseat next season, stating “I know that at 37 I can’t be the No. 1 option if we want to play for a championship. That’s just normal. That’s how the cycle goes.”
Trying to find his place, Parsons struggled out of the gate last season. Shooting only 41 percent the first month of the season, Parsons eventually found his stroke as the season progressed. Down the stretch, he flashed his ability to be the ace of the offense and finished the season strong. Over his final 12 regular season games, Parsons averaged 17.1 points on only 12.7 field goal attempts per game, hitting over 51 percent from the field.
His career scoring average of 14.5 points on only 11.8 field goal attempts per game highlights what he could do if given the role of the lead dog in an NBA offense. His 1.25 points per field goal attempt rate last season is comparable to 21.7 points per game scorers Klay Thompson and Kyrie Irving and better than top-10 scorers Carmelo Anthony and LaMarcus Aldridge. If you extrapolate his points per game based on 16.5 shots per game, Parsons will score 20.5 points next season. That places him just behind Damian Lillard in the scoring leaders category and firmly in the top 20.
Coach Rick Carlisle had high praise for the soon-to-be 27-year-old Parsons saying, “His game has grown a lot. He’s not only a shooter and a scorer, but he’s a playmaker. He’s one of our best all-around players.”
Parsons believes he is ready to make the jump as well, “I’m going into my prime. I think I’m ready. I feel like this year was more of a year to get comfortable and get my feet wet. I had some big games. Next year, I hope for a much bigger role. I want the ball in my hands.”
Two players to whom Parsons compares favorably, who both had their breakout years last season, are Jimmy Butler and Gordon Hayward. Both wing players saw their usage rate jump up by three percent or more in their fourth or fifth season, respectively. The increased role helped both players bump their scoring average to nearly 20 points per game and earned an All-Star Game nod and Most Improved Player award for Butler.
Replacing Ellis’ team-leading 18.9 points per game will not fall to just Parsons, though. The Mavs also brought in Wesley Matthews and Derron Williams to solidify their backcourt. While both are competent scorers, neither are expected to be more than supplemental figures in the Mavericks’ offense.
Matthews prowess behind the arc will free Parsons up to move around on the floor. Instead of camping behind the three-point line like he did much of last season, Parsons will be able to display his cutting ability and quickness. Pick-and-rolling with Williams at the point, the small forward will be able to drive to the basket where he is an excellent finisher. He has shot over 65 percent in his career from three feet or less. Being used less as a spot up shooter, Parsons will also get the chance to get to the line more. His career average of 2.3 free throw attempts per game is unacceptable for a top scoring option.
Hopefully, Williams can turn back the clock to his pre-Brooklyn days, where he averaged 10.0 assists per game from 2007 to 2012. Then the Mavs will have a facilitator who can find Parsons in space, utilizing his superior shooting stroke.
While Nowitzki will not be going away completely, he does appear to be headed towards another year of minutes restrictions next season. He averaged under 30 minutes per game last season for the first time since his rookie season way back in 1999. Carlisle also sat the power forward five times just for a rest. At this point in his career, Nowitzki is the perfect secondary or complementary scoring option for Dallas.
At 6’9″, Parsons can also slide over to power forward when Nowitzki is resting. He has the length to defend power forwards and is experienced. Parsons has spent around 20 percent of his time on the court playing the four. When Carlisle decides to play small ball, Parsons will still be able to be the focus of the offense. He can function as a stretch four, similar to how Nowitzki does now. This flexibility will allow the Mavericks to stick with their offensive style and flow, making Parsons that much more valuable to the offense.
Last season, Parsons was hampered by injuries culminating in offseason knee surgery. Naturally, he saw a decrease in minutes due to his various ailments. He was on the court for only 33.1 minutes per game last season after averaging 36.9 in his previous two seasons with the Rockets. While some doubt that he will be ready for training camp and opening day, Parsons would like to differ.
Finally, Parsons has some additional financial incentives to breakout this season. While he signed a three-year deal with Dallas, the third year (2016-17) is a player option. All indications are that Parsons will opt out after this season to take a chance and capitalize on the influx of new TV money coming in the next offseason. If he were to have a tremendous season, Parsons may warrant a max contract that could earn him in excess of $22M per year.
When the Mavs gave Parsons a $46M deal last year, many doubted he was worth the money. Entering the second year of his contract, Parsons is ready to prove he can be a max-contract guy. With the opportunity there to be the go-to-guy in Dallas, a breakout season is in line for the former second-round pick. Parsons left Houston for the chance of stardom, and with everything lining up for him it looks like this will be his year to shine.